By Malcolm Campbell, Founder worththeriskblog.com
The title of this could have been: On the Origins of Worth-the-Risk, or Does Risk Taking Lead to Security? But I took of poll of Sheep and Zombies who are likely voters and they prefer the current title. After all its all about them these days.
Actually, this article is about my world view and a path toward emotional and economic security for me and others while we still live in it.
World View: The economy is far more depressed than our leaders and the media let on. This of course is toward the purpose of sustaining the norm, and protecting the-powers-that-be. At the highest levels among both Democrats and Republicans, it is well understood that asset values must be propped at all costs in order to maintain cash flows to bond holders and entitlement recipients (holders of social contracts). Hence, assets are presently overpriced in relation to general incomes (especially those found in the private sector); this despite the most recent housing collapse.
I’m not going to provide all the backup information, but readers are encouraged to read some works of Alan Greenspan and Ben Bernanke, Past and Present Chairmen of the US Fed, and learn something about Dr. Michael Bury, a simple hard working yet inquisitive man who made a fortune off of the housing collapse stemming from Fed induced policy (Money for nothing to protect favored classes). No matter your view on the morality of these men and the activities which take up their time, their histories intertwine in a way to prove the extraordinary cognitive dissonance and bias at work within our society, and the massive wealth that is won and lost when, at times, perception meets reality.
It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on him not understanding it!
Some men say bubbles cannot be predicted while others can predict the sector, the size, and the due date of its bursting. We are at all times prisoners of our own bias, seeking confirmation ignoring dis-confirmation. We are as always like so many sheep willingly led to the slaughter as opposed free people of liberty we are now permitted to be.
A reality we can agree upon: Jobs are scarce, and the value of things we need; homes, food, and energy are too high and moving further out of reach as incomes stagnate or decline. Add insult to injury, Capital continues to signal that we are paid too much to be competitive. Yet Capital always signals this, and in times like these Capital holds all the power, it will have us for nothing if permitted. A reminder: not too long ago we could be had for less than the cost of living on Capital’s property (Company Store anyone?). How far removed is that from true slavery? And how close do you feel as though you are working to pay down your debt to the company store? Are you just living-to-work? Do you even have work?
In slavery, there is no emotional or economic security. There is only suffering without reward; the death of dreams unrealized.
Questions: We live in a free country. We have choices. So, at what price do you choose not to participate in the norm? At what price do you allocate your time talent and treasure to something completely different from the norm?
I believe now is the best time to break away from the pack (sheep analogy) and go your own way, be a free man or woman of purpose. Costs are too high and prices paid are too low to capitulate to the norm.
Another analogy; the Zombies: Our leaders offer the path of Zombies as the way out of a rotten economy. Zombies: The undead (claims on unearned income) permitted to live simply to consume our brains (ability to create) and our very life force (ability to earn income). The norm is to print and prop at the expense of the productive economy and our youth. It is not sustainable and it will collapse or dissolve into greater and greater financial repression.
This is wrong, and it is immoral. And I for one will not stand for it nor participate in it. And, I will not risk my time or capital working in an enterprise dependent on the norm.
What to do: I advocate for collapse, and the sooner the better, but that is not my affair – my name is not Bernanke. In either case; collapse or continued repression, I want to be hanging onto something real and tangible. Something that holds its value. Many suggest gold, yet how can you hold gold if you haven’t the cash to exchange for it in the first place. For the similarly broke and indebted, I suggest cultivating a real and valuable skilled trade. For example, I am a tile setter. I can sell my time and labor tiling your bathroom. And, I am also a skilled idea creator and writer. Probably a better ideator (word?) than writer, yet if you have gotten this far I have at least captured your attention for a bit – so I have some market acceptance as a writer going for me.
Get your Zombie Vaccine Here: Now, I want something real, because as we go along in this Zombie repression, there will be fewer and fewer slots available in the norm and more and more people on their own seeking remuneration in exchange for deeds – (done dirt cheap!?) On the collapse, I don’t want to be spit out with the masses left to fend for myself amongst them, my only marketable skill being a cog in a much larger wheel. I want to have my fending machine put in place now, so come the day, I have the means to fend for what I need for me and my team. A team of like minded individualists who are as dynamic and broadly skilled as I, capable of getting most anything done, be it the heavy lifting of concrete or of translating ideas into marketable services.
Breakdowns before Breakthroughs: Let me be clear, collapse does not imply doom, rather it is a transformational event. An opportunity. A stripping of power and assets from one group and a their passing on to another presumably more effective group. Happens all the time in true capitalism. A gardener prunes the rose bush to the ground in winter for success in the spring. When the pruning comes, I don’t want to be among the old growth. I want to be what lies beneath, the root and the soil, preparing for the next spring bearing young green shoots and lovely flowers for all to enjoy. And to be sure, I am a bit prickly, but then so was Steve Jobs.
A Career is a Luxury I cannot afford: I came to this conclusion post MBA 2009 as I found it difficult to break into a company and start a new career (the impetus for getting an MBA in the first place). I saw great downside risk and little upside reward. Employers today can no longer offer any long term security. If I go into a company, I go in the ground floor at low pay, working for a ladder-climbing-political-animal 10-15 years my junior. Likely an individual more focused on career risk (risk averse as opposed to risk taking or risk making), hence threatened by me (a natural risk taker and risk maker), and dispossessed toward mutual collaboration and shared success. Along the way, I am much more at risk of some career-ending-move or the eventual demise of my company rather than long term success. In the end, while I might be able to secure a job for a time along with some pay and benefits, the likely outcome is a tenure more poorly paid and shorter than I need only to find myself out of a job sooner than I can afford – only older and less employable going forward (and with little to no capital to show for it).
A better way: Now, If I am going to take on that kind of risk, I want some upside. And I don’t have the time to put up with some risk averse 30-something with the power to burn me for his or her own gain. No thanks. I would rather risk it on my own. Pursue my own dream. Build my own capital base. Take my poverty in-the-now with the opportunity for a better payoff down-the-road. Besides, poverty while pursuing dreams does not equate to slavery. While slavery is impoverishing, the true source of suffering in the condition stems from its dream-crushing reality – mostly self induced. Consider the starving artist; One can be blissfully penniless while working on their art, but never a slave doing what she loves. And that’s the crux of it: pursuing a dream is like being in love.
…And that is the crux of it: pursuing a dream is like being in love. And, it is far better to love and lose than to never play the game.
Look the game is rigged for most to end up losers. And in the end we all die anyway. The only thing that differs is the path you choose. Increasingly the normal path we choose, the way our parents and their parents before them made a better life for their children and us, is getting further out of reach for more and more of us.
So how do you wish to go through? Dependent on an increasingly unsustainable norm? Or making your own way? To thine own self be true.
On the promise of youth: Our youth are undervalued and underutilized, a tax is placed upon them greater than any care to recognize. Young people today (and the recently young among us), just as they have always been, represent our greatest asset, poised to consume yet prevented from doing so due to lack of a classic career path coupled with humiliating salaries and zero job security. Only in Zombie economies do the young go underutilized. In the Zombie economy everything is geared toward supporting unsustainable legacies. This is how it was in the Depression 90 years ago, and only the cataclysmic transformational event of a Great War reversed the trend as we sent so many of our young off to battle, off to camps, and off to die. We owed them a great debt, and we repaid it.
Our Present Catalyst: Today we live in a great changing time. When I look across the last 20 years (the time since I emerged from college a freshly minted Bachelor in Engineering). In ’92 I weaned myself from DOS and onto Win 3.1. There was no Netscape, no browsing, so no internet as we know and love it today. Since then a place called Silicon Valley has spun out a parade of wining ideas and young millionaires and billionaires. All by satisfying needs we never knew we had.
- Bezos redefined retailing and the value of the long tail through Amazon, mass no longer matters – now its all about the niche and shopping in your PJ’s.
- Page and Brin set information free with Google creating perhaps the best place in the whole world to work (if you are under 40).
Then dotcom mania and the tech wreck of 2000, a pruning of the rose bush in its own right. Just completed and over built trans-ocean internet cables bankrupted their many and over-levered developers leading to low cost global broadband. How, where, when, and by whom work gets done changed forever.
And, Silicon Valley issued a squadron of newer and cooler social media concepts, ways to better connect us all everywhere and all the time;
- Twitter, and
- Facebook, so now we have a new best place in the whole world to work (if you are under 30)
While Silicon Valley with its moneyed VC’s and its beautiful geography lovely climate and bright minds will always live in infamy, increasingly we are seeing cool apps emerge from power places such as New York City, Boston, Chicago, and Los Angeles. Yet the tech wreck and cheap broadband showed place no longer matters. So we see iPhone apps coming out of everywhere, Prague Chezch Republic, Davenport Iowa, and all places in between.
And the price of distributing ideas costs next to nothing except for ones time to jot them down and the effort to get them distributed. In the viral case, distribution cost is nil. Print media and the entertainment business as we know it is dying, along with the ability of the big boys (Proctor and Gamble) et al. to compel you to choose Tide over the mom and pop soap shop next door.
Conclusion: So I wonder if a fellow based out of Toledo, OH. A humble tile setter through the help of a globally connected network of mutually interested individuals, can convert idea to marketable service with little capital and even less gravitas of geographic origin. This has to be the case, because if there is to be any hope for our future, young people must be inspired to develop and promote their ideas as marketable goods and services for others. Or if they are not quite seasoned and still tentative, they should be encouraged to work with similar individuals further along the curve, so as to develop their own marketable skill and confidence of self to go it alone.
I have a niche: the LOTC (Low-Overhead-Trade-Contractor), a population of perhaps 250,000 companies employing 3M individuals. And I have a passion: Offering them useful ways to gain credibility in the growing green building segment of the construction industry. It is better in my opinion to discover if this is possible than to toil away for some global conglomerate or has been Fortune 500 on its way down to 1000 and out.
This is for my benefit and that of my fellows. This is for the young and undervalued and the recently young and underemployed. There is a way forward. Do not capitulate to the norm. And know that no matter the price Capital bids;
We are all Worth-the-Risk.
What do you think?